A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this action thriller includes some scenes of extreme violence, including one in which a family -- including a 4-year-old boy -- is brutally gunned down in their home. There are also explosions, abuse (of a 12-year-old), and more. The 12-year-old girl develops an unusual relationship with a much older hitman (who teaches her his trade); there's an undercurrent of chemistry between them. Strong language includes "f--k" and "bitch"; characters also drink and smoke.
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What's the story?
In THE PROFESSIONAL, reclusive New York City hitman Leon (Jean Reno) lets his nurturing side come out after rescuing 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman). Leon, who has lived like a hermit for years, discovers a strong paternal instinct when he takes the girl in. Mathilda's abusive upbringing has hardened her to violence and forced her to grow up fast, yet she's still youthful enough to love dress-up games and puppet shows. But his young charge often seems more worldly and calculating than her surrogate father figure. In fact, Mathilda makes a deal with Leon: He'll teach her how to be an assassin, and she'll take care of all the housekeeping duties. Their life includes everyday activities like cooking and cleaning, as well as lessons in firing a sniper rifle from a rooftop. Their mutual goal? Revenge against a group of thugs who performed a vicious act of violence against Mathilda's family.
Is it any good?
Jean Reno is quietly menacing in his hit man mode and awkwardly affectionate in his father-figure role. Leon lavishes TLC on his cherished houseplant; every day he carefully waters it, polishes its leaves, and arranges it just so on a sunny ledge. The symbolism is undeniable: Here is a man who kills people for a living but harbors a gentle soul and even a strict code of professional ethics ("no women, no kids").
Co-star Gary Oldman is chilling as a psychotic, corrupt DEA agent with a habit of popping pills right before his crooked team's various raids. And in her first major film role, Portman gives an intelligent and surprisingly mature performance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the media tends to portray "good guys" and "bad guys." Are real people either all bad or all good -- or is it more complicated than that? How do you feel about the movies' tendency to portray gangsters' and criminals' "sensitive side"? Does that excuse their bad behavior?
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